TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Warning of the potential for a future governor to impose significant lockdowns when the next pandemic hits, a Republican state senator is drafting a proposal to require a majority of the independently-elected Florida Cabinet to approve of any executive order restricting economic activity.
"It took three officers to blow up the Star Trek Enterprise," said Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg). "It should take at least three people to sign off on blowing up the economy of the state of Florida."
What You Need To Know
- A proposed change to Florida law would require a majority of the Florida Cabinet to impose restrictions on economic activity
- The move comes as Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes expressed fear that a governor could have implemented COVID-19 restrictions unilaterally
- Opponents argue the move would violate Florida's Constitution
Brandes told Spectrum News the proposal could be offered as an amendment to pandemic response reform legislation. While supportive of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' decisions against implementing COVID-19 restrictions, including extended forced business closures, nightly curfews, and a statewide mask mandate, he says the governor's office won't always be occupied by a chief executive with such libertarian-minded views.
Under the senator's framework, at least two members of the Cabinet — a body consisting of the attorney general, chief financial officer and agriculture commissioner — would have to sign on to a gubernatorial lockdown order for it to take effect.
"Just 30,000 votes and the wrong governor could have radically, devastatingly impacted the state of Florida by shutting off thousands of businesses," he said in an interview, suggesting Andrew Gillum, DeSantis' vanquished Democratic opponent in the 2018 gubernatorial race, would have imposed economy-crippling lockdown measures had he been in charge when the pandemic began.
It's unclear, however, if such a requirement would pass constitutional muster. Under the Florida Constitution, the governor and his or her appointed agency heads, are given wide discretion to order business closures and other restrictions during a public health emergency.
And requiring Florida's four statewide elected officials to debate the merits of lockdown orders could do more harm than good, according to Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando).
"In a future pandemic, if a governor must get his executive actions approved by the full Cabinet, we open ourselves up to all kinds of partisan and political infighting, which is not going to be good for Floridans who need an executive, a governor, who can take quick, swift action to protect the state," he said.